16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Thursday, September 14, 1911: Besse was out today again and to school I went with a rejoicing heart. I may not have felt just exactly that way, but was glad I didn’t have to miss school.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Things were very hectic at the Muffly’s because many men were there helping them thresh the grain (see the yesterday’s entry). Grandma was concerned that she’d need to skip school to help her mother prepare and serve meals; fortunately her married sister Besse came home to help.
I’m going to share an article that was published in the Milton Evening Standard a hundred years ago today. It discussed the pros and cons of building a bridge across the river at Watsontown.
Grandma often walked about two miles to Watsontown—but she hasn’t written about ever crossing the Susquehanna River to White Deer.
It’s hard to imagine, but a hundred years ago the only way across the river was via ferry or other boat.
According to the paper, a bridge was needed because:
Everybody knows that the river is a fluctuator. During late fall, winter, and early spring it is a vast body of floating ice and slush. Without a bridge it is dangerous alike to passenger and all other traffic. In the summer it is generally too low for comfortable ferrying and too high to ford.
Milton Evening Standard (September, 14, 1911)
(An aside—after last week’s floods I think we’d all agree that the paper got it right when it said that the Susquehanna is a “fluctuator.”)
However, the paper indicated that a bridge at Watsontown might hurt commerce in Milton (which already had a bridge across the river):
Some may ask: “How would Milton profit by its construction and establishment?”
Milton Evening Standard (September 14, 1911)
A hundred years ago White Deer, the town across the river from Watsontown, was much livelier than it is today.
White Deer is at the foot of the mountains—and for much of the 1800’s huge volumes of lumber moved through White Deer—some went out via the river and some was loaded on trains.
Lumber was transported across the Susquehanna River to several factories in Watsontown—including a table factory and a door factory.
The lumbering industry was in decline by 1911. According to Union County Pennsylvania: A Celebration of History by Charles M. Snyder
What appears to have been the last stand of virgin forest in White Deer Township was removed by the Watsontown Door and Sash Company in 1917.
Filed under: Watsontown